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Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus

(c. 228 - 160 BCE)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus was born around 228 BCE as Lucius Aemilius Paullus. He was a Roman politician and a famous winner from under Pydna.

He came from an old patrician family – the Emilius family. It was a family of great influence, thanks to its wealth and connections with the family of the Cornelius Scipio. His father was Lucius Aemilius Paulus the consul in 219 BCE, killed at Cannae in 216 BCE. Young Lucius was also the brother-in-law of Scipio Africanus himself. His two sons (out of four) were adopted by great families – Fabia and Cornelii Scipiones.

After completing the required cursus honourum military service, he was successively a military tribune, quaestor, in 194 BCE. member of the three-person commission overseeing the colonization in Krotona. In 193 BCE he was chosen the curule aedile – he decorated the temple of Jupiter. About 192 BCE became part of the augur college. In 191 BCE was elected praetor. As praetor and later proconsul, he fought in the Province of Spain with the Lusitans in the years 191-189 BCE. He introduced order in the province, gaining the opinion of a just politician. In 189 BCE he was one of the legates to solve cases in the province of Asia. After returning to Rome, after several unsuccessful attempts, he became a consul in 182 BCE. together with Gnaeus Bebius Tamfilus. The following year, as a proconsul, he fought with the Ingaunami in Liguria, and on his return he celebrated triumph.

Breakout of war

The Third Macedonian War broke out in 171 BCE when the Macedonian king Perseus defeated the army of Rome under the command of Publius Licinius Crassus in the Battle of Kallicinus. After two years of inconclusive clashes until the end of the war, Paulus was appointed by the Senate, elected consul together with Gaius Licinius Crassus. Paulus was by then an experienced commander, almost sixty years old. After arriving in Greece, the consul quickly began to prepare for the offensive. The Roman army set up camp on the Elpeus River, which separated the spheres of influence of both countries. The Romans tried several times to conquer the fortifications across the river but to no avail. Paulus forced the opponent to leave their favourable positions, setting up a detachment under the command of Publius Cornelius Scipio Nazyki who managed to get to the rear of Perseus’ position. The king’s army was not directly threatened, but fearing that the Romans would occupy the important city of Pydna and cut its supply lines, he ordered a withdrawal to the north. The Romans followed the king, forcing him in a short time to a great battle, which took place near Pydna on June 22 168 BCE. The size of Paulus’ army is estimated at about 38,000 soldiers and over 20 elephants. The army of the Macedonian king numbered about 44,000 soldiers and it was based on foot soldiers armed with long pikes and fighting in the phalanx. The Macedonian line was broken and the battle turned into a slaughter of the Macedonian army. Perseus escaped from the battlefield, led by only a thousand men. The battle of Pydna, which lasted about an hour, ended with the almost complete annihilation of the Macedonian army and immediately ended the Macedonian war. The victory was largely the result of the flexibility of the Roman tactical system. The Senate decided to collapse Macedonia. He divided its territory into 4 parts and then incorporated them into the republic. Many members of the Macedonian aristocracy were also taken prisoner. It was the end of the Macedonian kingdom.

The Triumph of Emilius Paulus, Carle Vernet

The Battle of Pydna brought another change in the balance of power – the fall and destruction of the once-great Macedonia and the further growth of Rome’s power. The dominance in Greece achieved after the victory at Kynosfalai was strengthened. Theoretically, the independent states of Hellas could not do anything without the knowledge and consent of the Romans. In 167 BCE Paulus, as proconsul, brought Roman order to Macedon and Greece and sacked Epirus, Perseus’ ally. Paulus returned to Rome in full glory. Thanks to huge spoils from Macedonia and Epirus, he celebrated in November 167 BCE. A great triumph in which King Perseus was also led as a captive. Later, the former king died in captivity.
In 164 BCE Paulus was elected censor.

Emilius Paulus could not win people over. The soldiers did not like him (they rebelled even trying to prevent the triumph, disappointed with too low, in their opinion, share in the spoils).
Paulus later commanded a shameful expedition against the Epirots – Rome decided to introduce its order in their country for allegedly helping Macedonia – which was untrue. 150,000 prisoners were taken prisoner and then sold as slaves. As we mentioned before, Emilius Paulus was already at a very mature age, when he achieved his greatest success. His character and lack of skills as a politician wrecked his further career. He spent the rest of his life admiring the legacy of Hellenic civilization, of which he became a great admirer.


The first wife was Papiria Mazonis, daughter of a consul in 231 BCE Gaius Papiri Mazon, whom he divorced, according to Plutarch, without any special cause around 183-182 BCE. From this marriage, he had two sons and two daughters. The older one, Emilia Paula Prima married the son of Cato the Elder; younger, Emilia Paula Sekunda, Elius Tubern, a wealthy commoner, consul in 117 BCE.

The second wife, unknown by name, also bore him two sons (the older one around 181 BCE, the younger one around 176 BCE) and a daughter Aemilia Tertia. When the family was threatened with extinction, a patrician with a sufficient number of children could give one of his sons to his less fertile friend. This is what Lucius Aemilius Paulus did, handing over two of his four sons into the hands of other great families. One of them was taken in by the relatives of the famous Cunctator and took the name of Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilius. The younger (probably Lucius) was adopted by the son of Scipio Africanus the Elder and became Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilius, later conqueror of Carthage and Numantia. Fate, however, mocked Paulus’ generosity, the two sons who remained from him fell sick and died, the first five days before, the second three days after his father’s triumphal march, crowning the victory over the Macedonian king Perseus at the battle of Pydna. In his will, Paulus handed over the property to his sons, although they were no longer legally Emilius. At the same time, Scipio resigned from his participation in favour of his older brother. The Emilius Paulus line expired with Paulus’ death.


He died in 160 BCE.

  • Cary Max i Scullard Hayes Howard, Dzieje Rzymu. Od czasów najdawniejszych do Konstantyna, Warszawa, 1992
  • Goldsworthy Adrian, W imię Rzymu. Wodzowie, których zwycięstwa stworzyły rzymskie imperium wielcy historii, 2003
  • Hammond Nicholas, Starożytna Macedonia, Warszawa 1999
  • Kęciek Krzysztof, Kynoskyfalaj 197 p.n.e., Warszawa 2002

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